Our readers in Texas may have heard the term “eminent domain” and perhaps have a general idea of what this area of the law involves. For landowners, understanding the basics of eminent domain can be crucial.

The government’s rights

For starters, the most basic premise of eminent domain is the right of governmental entities to secure a private landowner’s property for use in public improvement projects. For example, an expanding town may need to extend public utilities, like sewer, water and electric, to a certain area that is within town limits. If a private landowner’s property is between that area and existing utility connections, the town may need to use the right of eminent domain to acquire easements on the private landowner’s property in order to run those utility connection through the private property.

The property owner’s rights

However, it is important to understand that this process is not “automatic,” or without any input from the private landowner. And, even more important, the acquisition of private property is not without compensation. In fact, the government must engage in the process of having the proposed acquisition appraised, and an offer of “just compensation” must be made to the landowner. If the landowner agrees, there is no need for litigation. But, if there is disagreement over the value or worth of the proposed acquisition, litigation may be necessary.

The back-and-forth argument over the value of property can be a significant struggle between governmental entities and private landowners. Our readers in Texas will likely need to get more information about their own specific situation, beyond the basics outlined in this post.